In English there are four basic conditional
structures, although these can be mixed according to the situation.
They can also be mixed in other languages.
The tenses I've used are the BASIC
tenses. However, once you know the general structures you can check
what other verb forms you can use.
This is used when there is no condition,
in other words you could substitute 'if' with 'when'. It is often used
when describing facts or explaining how something works.
Structure: if + present, present
If you don't
water flowers, they die.
If you turn that switch to the black position,
the power gets cut off.
If you mix water with oil, the oil floats.
The first conditional is used for
situations based on fact. The condition describes something normal
and possible, and the result is probable and based on the present or
Structure: if + present, future
If you study hard,
you will pass your exams.
If you click on that icon, you'll
lose anything you haven't saved.
If it doesn't rain tomorrow we're
going to the beach. (present used as future).
This conditional is not based on
fact. It refers to a situation in the present or future which is unreal,
unlikely or contrary to facts.
To show this unreality, we have to
shift the tense from the present to the past, although the condition
still refers to the present or the future.
Structure: if + past, would
If I won the
lottery, I would buy a fast car (but
I haven't won the lottery, so I can't buy anything).
If I had some money, I would
give you some (but I haven't got any money, so you can't have any).
If Valencia were a good football team I would
support them (but they're rubbish, so I don't, and anyway I hate football).
The third conditional refers to situations
in the past which, because they're in the past, are imaginary or impossible.
You can't change the past.
Structure: if + past
perfect, would (could/might) have +
If I had
studied more, I would have passed my
exams (but I went out every night with my friends, didn't open
a book, and I failed).
If I hadn't spent all my money on CDs I could
have given some to you (but I did spend it on CDs and I wouldn't give
you any money anyway).
If you had been ready on time, we wouldn't
have missed the train and we would have arrived before
all the restaurants closed (but you were too slow and now we're hungry and
there's nowhere open).
to exercises and pdf files
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Grammar notes from
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